PATRON FOR SHOOTERS
By Carlo Stagnaro,
Milan, Italy, June 2003,
reprinted with permission of ARMI and translated by Mr. Stagnaro
Many of today's Roman Catholics are bewitched
by pacifist sirens, or fall victim to the deceptive melody
of nonviolence. Maybe these people don't know that, at the
very same time that they argue in favor of certain principles,
they are far from orthodoxy and, indeed, make heretical arguments.
When one says that "tranquility" or "safety"
are values in themselves - that is, when one says that nothing
is worth risking, fighting or dying for - one implicitly is
denying that a superior Truth does exist; therefore, one is
talking against our Lord Jesus. After all, He came on earth
and sacrificed Himself to save our souls.
The commandment, "Thou shalt not kill,"
of course, properly translated from the original with its
meaning intact, really is, "Thou shalt not murder."
In fact, the use of lethal force in self-defense is legitimate
in the Christian tradition. It is written: "You shall
not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and
they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath
will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your
own wives will be widows, and your children orphans"
(Exodus 22:21-23). So, God Himself states the principle that
aggressive violence is illegitimate, while it is legitimate
to act against aggression. Christ said: "But now one
who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and
one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy
one" (Luke 22:36).
The difference between aggression and self-defense
has been understood by theologians since the very beginning
of Christian philosophy. St. Augustine of Hippo
pointed out that peace without justice and liberty is an "unjust
peace," as opposed to the "tranquility of order."
St. Thomas Acquinas noted that "true peace is only in
good men and about good things. The peace of the wicked is
not a true peace but a semblance thereof." This line
of reasoning has been unchanged for at least 1,000 years -
except in the minds of heretics. Indeed, the Roman Catholic
Church has been so conscious of the importance and relevance
of self-defense that it chose several patron saints for those
who deal peacefully with weapons. To mention only a few of
them: St. Barbara, Patron of Artillerymen; St. Sebastian,
Patron of Archers; St. Michael the Archangel, Patron of the
However, shooters still do not have an official
patron saint. This is true for firearm hobbyists as well as
for those who use guns to protect life, liberty and property.
This is why Mr. John Michael Snyder, a former associate editor
of the NRA's American Rifleman magazine, founded the St. Gabriel
Possenti Society, Inc. (www.gunsaint.com). He tells the story
in the brilliant book Gun Saint (Arlington, VA: Telum Associates,
2003). It is a "must have" book for all those who
believe owning and using guns is not against the Law of Jesus.
St. Gabriel Possenti (born in Assisi, Italy
on March 1, 1838) has been chosen by Mr. Snyder as a candidate
for patronizing shooters. Possenti entered the Passionist
House of Morovalle, Italy on September 21, 1856, after he
had had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He died on February
27, 1862. Word of his sanctity spread quickly, and many faithful
people went on pilgrimage to his tomb. During those times,
there was clear evidence of miracles reported through his
intercession. The Sacred Congregation of Rites determined
particularly that at least two of them were absolutely incontestable
(the instantaneous cure of Mr. John Baptist Cerro from severe
arthritis, and the immediate recovery of Mr. Aloysius Parisi
from a grievous abdominal rupture).
In 1891, an official investigation into
the life and virtues of Gabriel Possenti was opened by the
ecclesiastical authorities at Terni, Italy. In 1896, Pope
Leo XIII authorized the formal introduction of the cause of
canonization of Gabriel Possenti. He was beatified by Pope
St. Pius X on May 31, 1908. Originally, the date of his canonization
was set for May in 1913. However, it was delayed because of
the approaching World War One, and he was proclaimed a Saint
in May, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
The reason why Mr. Snyder has been proposing
the recognition of Gabriel Possenti as a patron saint for
shooters took place in 1860. After a battle that year in Pesaro,
Italy, in which Giuseppe Garibaldi's Piedmontese army defeated
Blessed Pope Pius IX's army, several contingents of the former
left the main body of the troops, and proceeded to terrorize
the countryside. About 20 of them entered Isola del Gran Sasso,
where Gabriel Possenti served as a seminarian. When the noise
from the ruckus caused by the gang reached the monastery,
Possenti asked the monastery rector if he could go into the
town to see if he could help the people. The rector said yes.
Possenti found the gang about to rape a
young woman, and ordered them to set her free. When they refused
to obey, Possenti yanked two pistols out of the soldiers'
holsters. (According to Mr. Paolo Tagini, who edits the Italian
firearms magazine, Armi Magazine, the weapons likely were
1851 Colt Navy Model six-shot revolvers in .36 caliber or
imitations thereof.) At that moment, a lizard ran across the
road. Gabriel Possenti took aim, fired and killed it with
one shot. Then, he turned his weapons toward the gang which,
surprised and shocked, left the village.
"By naming St. Gabriel Possenti officially
the Patron of Handgunners, the Vatican could hold up this
holy man as an example of the proper use of handguns,"
Mr. Snyder points out. "This would underscore the good
purposes to which these inanimate objects can be and often
are put. " Possenti used guns in order to pursue a just
end: protecting the victims' life, liberty and property against
aggression. "He used a handgun to rescue an entire village
full of peaceful, law-abiding people from the grip of a renegade
band of soldier/terrorists," Mr. Snyder adds. "He
accomplished his mission without causing physical harm, let
alone bloodshed, to anyone…(H)e not only defended a
village against a band of brigands. He also aimed a bullet
at the heart of tyranny, at the heart of terrorism, at the
heart of a brute ideology that justified the use of armed
force against the innocent… The Catholic Church, as
a genuine and consistent defender of the right to life, also
could speak out for the right of the individual to self-defense,
of the right to keep and bear arms."
The book Gun Saint also contains a report
of the dialogue between Mr. Snyder and the Holy See, which
sometimes has to face the hard wall of political correctness
but thanks to God keeps on going. Allegedly, not even the
Church is immune from this ill, this political correctness,
which is a real threat to Christians worldwide. But Snyder
also found attention: to mention only one of those who understood
the importance of his efforts, Archbishop Custodio Alvim Pereira,
who realized perfectly that a patron saint for shooters is
needed as a symbol for those who are willing to, and do, protect
life, liberty and property. Mr. Snyder also has been in touch
with Dr. Francesco Possenti, a great grand nephew of St. Gabriel
As any good Christian knows, the theological
virtues are Faith, Hope and Charity. So, the book ends with
a word of Hope: "Since the terrible events of September
11, it really has become clear to all who have eyes to see
and ears to hear that our civilization is in a war for survival.
Central to this war for survival, although it is not 'politically
correct' to say so, is a struggle between those who hold dear
the spiritual values of our society and those who abhor, hate
and despise those spiritual values… By naming St. Gabriel
Possenti, officially, the Patron of Handgunners, the Vatican
could reassert in a striking manner the traditional principle
that the use of force and the instruments of force in defense
of life, truth, justice, and innocence against unjustified
and nefarious aggression is not only acceptable but sometimes
By John Michael Snyder
Telum Associates, LLC
P.O. Box 2844
Arlington VA 22202 USA
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